Can Leicester City Repeat As Premier League Champs?
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Last season, soccer fans all over the world were treated to perhaps the greatest underdog story ever told, a Leicester City Premier League championship. The Foxes entered the season with 5,000 to one odds to win the title, and as the favorite of many pundits to be relegated out of the Premier League.
However, they shocked the soccer world and won the Premier League championship with a 10-point cushion, running away with the trophy. Now, the question becomes "can Leicester City repeat as Premier League champions? Surely, if they did it once, they can do it again, right?"
On one hand, the Foxes may have an even stronger side than they had last season. Among last year’s key players, only N’Golo Kante left the club during the summer transfer window. Star striker Jamie Vardy and playmaking midfielder Riyad Mahrez both stayed with the club despite high-levels of interest and lucrative offers from other clubs.
As a result, Leicester City retained its most dangerous attacking players, as well as the back four led by captain Wes Morgan that helped the Foxes win the championship last season.
The Foxes also went out and spent money on players during the summer transfer window in a way the club never has before. The likes of midfielder Nampalys Mendy and attacking players Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa have been added to the club, providing the Foxes were more talent and more depth in their squad. On paper, Leicester City looks stronger than they did a year ago, which will surely give them an opportunity to win another Premier League title.
However, it remains to be seen how much Leicester City will be affected by the loss of Kante, as his importance on the team last season can’t be overstated. Kante was not only involved in much of the dirty work in midfield to protect the back four, but he also helped spring players like Vardy and Mahrez on counter attacks that led to many of Leicester’s goals.
Then there is the issue of the competition Leicester City will face this season being higher than last year. Some may view the Foxes as beneficiaries of a season in which traditional Premier League powerhouses like Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool all had down years, opening the door for a fairy tale story like Leicester City’s Premier League championship.
Mass amounts of spending and managerial changes have made clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea look far more powerful than they were last year. This is on top of the continued threat of clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham that challenged Leicester City in the latter stages of last season and look poised do compete for the title once again.
With increased competition from other Premier League teams, not to mention the fact that Leicester City are now the hunted by virtue of wearing the championship crown, the Foxes may have a far more difficult path to walk if they hope to repeat as English champions. One must then factor in the difficulty of repeating as champions, which has not occurred in the Premier League since Manchester United won their third straight title in the 2008-09 season.
Historically speaking, the odds are also against the Foxes. Prior to last season, only one team outside of the quartet of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal had won the championship in the Premier League era. That team was Blackburn Rovers during the 1994-95 season.
Blackburn, like Leicester, was a non-traditional power that won the Premier League championship to great surprise. The following season, Blackburn finished 7th in the Premier League, and were ultimately relegated following the 1998-99 season. Such a precedent does not bode well by Leicester City this season.
Of course, the Foxes are getting far more respect than the 5,000 to 1 odds they received to win the Premier League championship a year ago. Leicester City Premier League championship odds for the 2016-17 season are anywhere from 40 to 1 and 80 to 1.
To put that into perspective, the Kansas City Royals were given better odds to repeat as World Series champions at the start of September, despite the fact that the Royals are currently several games out of a playoff spot. When you think about it in those terms, the odds makers aren’t giving a Leicester City Premier League repeat much of a chance.
So, what is the verdict? Can Leicester City repeat as Premier League champions? Of course they can. As long as you’re on the field, you have a chance. But while the odds may be a little better than last year, the challenge of winning a league that is far more top heavy than it was a year ago is far greater for the Foxes.
Leicester City undoubtedly has the talent, experience, and confidence to repeat as Premier League champions this season. Nevertheless, the odds are still not in their favor, not that that’s been a problem in the past.